“Turkey is an important NATO ally - you can just look at the map. They’re bordering Iraq and Syria - the only ally that borders that part of the world. And Turkey has been enormously important in our joint efforts to fight ISIS/Daesh,” Stoltenberg told reporters after holding talks with US President Donald Trump at the summit.
The NATO chief stressed Turkey’s central role in the defeat of Daesh and the liberation of Syria, but not all of the allies seemed to agree with him.
French President Emmanuel Macron has criticised Turkey for its October offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish militias, during which, according to Macron, Ankara failed to coordinate with all NATO members while working with Daesh proxies.
“I am sorry we do not have the same definition of terrorism around the table. When I look at Turkey, they now are fighting against those who fight with us, who fought with us, shoulder to shoulder, against Daesh. And sometimes they work with Daesh proxies,” Macron said on Tuesday.
Turkish President Erdogan has demanded full support and solidarity from the allies for its operation against what Ankara considers terrorists - the Kurdish YPG (People's Protection Units) group in Syria.
President of the Bosphorus Energy Club and former adviser to the Prime Minister of Turkey Mehmet Öğütçü called the alliance’s summit in Britain historic for NATO. Öğütçü emphasized that Turkey, from the moment it joined the alliance, has always been one of its most devoted members, however today it seeks to take its place in the security architecture as an independent force in the region.
According to the expert, the reason for this is that NATO no longer meets Turkey’s security needs, and the famous Article 5, that states that an attack on one member of NATO is an attack on all of its members, has lost its effectiveness.
“After the end of the Cold War, Turkey gradually strengthened its position in the region, and today it seeks to take its own place in the security architecture as an independent force in the region. This desire is reinforced by the fact that NATO no longer fully satisfies Turkey’s security needs, and the notorious Article 5 of the Charter of the alliance, in fact, doesn’t work. The number of NATO members has gone up from 16 to 29, and today there is a serious split between NATO and the EU,” Öğütçü noted.
Turkey is also one of the most powerful members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the geopolitical analyst stressed.
“It must be remembered that Turkey’s Armed Forces are the second largest standing military force in NATO and the 8th in the world. Therefore, from a military point of view, it as a country cannot be ignored,” Öğütçü said.
Macron and Erdogan came face to face at the summit during a quartet meeting at the British premier’s office between Turkey, France, Germany and the UK during which the leaders discussed the conflict Syria.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the meeting as “good and useful”.
“We agreed that the fight against Daesh should continue,” she said.
“Secondly, we all reaffirmed our support for the efforts of UN Special Envoy [Geir] Pedersen for a political process, for the meeting of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, and we will be more active on that,” Merkel told reporters after the talks.
Turkey aims to clear northern Syria of YPG/PKK (The Kurdistan Workers' Party) terrorist groups with the aim to secure its borders and create a “safe zone” to resettle Syrian refugees. Ankara considers YPG an offshoot of the PKK, that’s recognized as a terrorist organization not just by Turkey, but also its allies - EU and the US.
But the European Union has harshly criticised the offensive from the start.
“In my opinion, at present, there is not a single player left inside NATO who would have warm feelings towards Turkey, but, as the NATO Secretary General noted, Turkey is an ally that cannot be abandoned, since it borders Iran in the east, Syria, Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean in the south, and has access to the Black Sea in the north. In such a situation, even if a regional power like Turkey does not use its power to its full potential, other international players cannot take steps without taking its interests into account,” Öğütçü concluded.
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